The Japanese Surprise

Who can say why we become curious about something?  To me, curiosity is what drives an active reader.  For whatever reason, I seem to have an appetite for fiction about the Japanese invasion of Southeast Asia, particularly the occupation of Malaya and Singapore.  I've touched on this before, in my post about the geopolitics of rubber.

Since then I've read:

Commander Prince, USN, by James Bassett who was Admiral Halsey's press secretary, and who also penned In Harm's Way, which was made into one of the the best of Hollywood's films about the Pacific War.  Commander Prince is sent from Manila to lead an antiquated squadron of destroyers in a series of holding actions against the Japanese advance across Indonesia.

The Pride and the Anguish, by Douglas Reeman, best known for his Napoleonic sea stories featuring Richard Bolitho.  A squadron of coastal gunboats is tasked with supporting the British/Australian defense of Malaya.

South by Java Head, by Alistair MacLean.  A motley assortment of Brits; wounded soldiers, nurses, a boy orphan and a spy, manage to escape the surrender of Singapore aboard a tramp steamer.

This is not something that Americans generally know about.  Apart from MacArthur and the Philippines, our memory of the Pacific War is of Pearl Harbor and the island-hopping operations of our Navy and Marine Corps.  Tom Hanks's recent HBO series, The Pacific, leaves out the British story of the Japanese occupation of Malaya and Burma.

When I was a 5-year-old boy, my friend's father, Shorty, had had both his legs blown off at the knees in some Pacific island battle.  It sounds so insensitive now, for people to have called him "Shorty", but we did.  He walked with the help of strap-on prosthetic legs.

My young friends and I were fascinated in the '60's by gruesome stories of Japanese torture of American prisoners of war.  When we "played war", though, it had always to be Americans vs. Germans.  None of us wanted to pretend to be Japanese soldiers.

I must wind this up, but check out The Stones Cry Out and The Burmese Harp for Japanese reflections on the war.


frogola said...

What's with the alphabet letters on the cover art?

Brett said...

I've been wondering myself. No idea. Google Images picked it up from a French web page for Battlefield 1942 game mods.